On a recent post on social media about US president Donald Trump one could see 376 Comments. Almost all passionately and harshly bickering with each other over their ever widening partisan divide. 376 Comments?!? That’s a lot of time, attention and energy. All so valuable. Perhaps an assessment of how we are collectively allocating our resources is in order.
A president or prime minister is put simply a reflection of the sentiment of a majority of any given population in a nation state at the time. It is important to remember that. There are others. No one party or platform or group of people has a monopoly on being right. This “rightness” usually exists somewhere in between both extremes. It strikes one as odd how few people seem to realize this when it comes to politics and religion. Especially in the context of everything we have learned and know from a study of our shared human history. It is this forgetting of such a basic truth that has been causing wars amongst human civilizations for thousands of years.
In reality there are both noble and harmful goals being aspired to and enacted by almost every country’s leader in every administration. The people’s’ primary goal should not be to choose sides and defend their candidate’s agenda in its entirety to the death, but rather to step back and monitor the leader’s actions individually as a concerned citizen and protector of their country and its constitution, irrespective of partisan politics. Upon doing so the individual will quickly see that the job of that person is so mammoth and overreaching that the partisan bickering of the populace does nothing but
distract that leader from being able to do their job effectively.
Donald Trump may be one of the most adored and despised presidents in US history, but precisely because of that he is also surely one of the most challenged when it comes to being able to effectively govern. This is never a good thing for a people, lest those people forget that the world is watching and the world is a very competitive place with plenty of bad actors who harbor no good will towards other countries they perceive as competitors.
Instead each individual has an obligation to rise above their emotional partisan leanings and objectively voice their viewpoint to their elected government officials in agreement or dissension of said agenda and actions to help guide and steer the ship of their country’s path forward, That is how a people can most effectively help govern their country of residence.
If for a moment we assume that most people are simply incapable of this high-wire act of both agreeing with some goals of their president and disagreeing with others, due to their impassioned emotions creating an inability to see the bigger picture importance of effectively governing a nation, it still behooves these same people to minimize the effort they put into complaining and bickering amongst themselves and instead focus their attention and energy on actions that help sway the direction of their own governance by said elected officials.
Even simple actions of some substance — a letter a phone call an email a petition starting a non profit or NGO or PAC or a Thoughtstorm group — are better than arguing in the public square. This is the keen understanding that people who lead have had for thousands of years of human history. This is why they are the leaders. There are a multitude of effective substantive actions that every individual in the United States can be taking right now. All vastly more valuable than arguing on social media.
Many in a country’s populace have big juicy noble goals. Though sometimes those goals directly conflict with those of their fellow citizens. This is where democracy and compromise come into play. A mutual respect for civility and democratic ideas that continues long eras of peace and sustainability in a civilization.
Laws can always be overturned or amended. (Think the abolition of slavery in the US.) Disrespect for the law, such as dismissing the validity of the results of an electoral process, or lawlessness most often leads to chaos self-destruction and fascist or communist overthrow. [study the Napoleonic overthrow of France and half of Europe after their alleged people’s revolution on Bastille Day — a still-shocking and vital lesson in the importance of and need for respect civility organization and democratic principles and infrastructure.]
[So I spelled “Brasilian” wrong… At least if we are speaking English, which will prevent this post from ranking high or even popping up in search engines when beginners are searching for data regarding Brazilian music. Which admittedly sucks in a way. Because everyone should know about Brasilian music. The more the better. Brasilian music, like coffee or chocolate or Radiohead or sex or Avatar or God is something that everyone should have a chance to discover and experience and enjoy. It’s that good. It’s that great. That glorious. But Brasilian is actually how the word is spelled. Because the actual name of the country is Brasil. Not Brazil. regardless of what most of us are taught in the English speaking world. I don’t know if we want to go as far as calling that some form of racism or classism or just being careless and selfish, but it’s a dismissive act that we in the West have been guilty of far too many times for far too long when it comes to other countries. We heard “Brazil” so we just decided to call it that. At some point we learned how the people actually spell their country’s name and we never bothered to correct it. It would be akin to finding out that Brasilians call the U.S. the Y.S. by mistake and just never bothered to fix it. It feels demeaning. So, Brasilian it is. Because that’s their name.
On a good note, what we’ll find is that people who have made it at least to the point in their exploration of this glorious country and culture will easily find this post, as they’ll be spelling the name of the country right when they run their search for Brasilian music. But alas this post isn’t just for the already-converted. In fact, I’d prefer it hit the average person who’s always just been curious why every now and then we hear of yet another person who’s going gaga over Brasilian music…. Or better yet, perhaps even people who aren’t even aware of this phenomenon yet. Just to discover how amazing this very special music is. It’s that good.]
So… Where to begin. As some may know, I first got the Brasil bug about 20 years ago. And it hit me hard — in a major way. This is why I recorded and released 3 Brasilian classics on various albums over the last 20 years. I know it may seem a bit cheesy or annoying to the uninitiated, random songs in Portuguese popping up on our albums… You probably skip them. I probably would if i didn’t speak the language. I get it. But let me explain… It’s important. I can easily reflect back on the events and relay them here, though I’m not sure I can adequately explain the near supernatural way it all felt and went down. But I’ll try.
The first Brasilian song I ever heard was “Fio Maravilha” by Jorge Bem Jor. This is going back now over 20 years. Broken Spectacles was just breaking up. I was devastated. I hadn’t yet moved to New York to record Acoustic In New York. I was sort of lost musically for a few months. That breakup was hard. Those guys were my brothers. We had been together for 6 straight years. Lived together. So I was grieving. We all were. Though we weren’t speaking. Each of us holding onto our own personal grudges and resentments.
I was also thoroughly tired of western music — meaning anything pop or rock from America or England or Ireland or Australia. And yeah that included classical or avant garde or jazz or folk… Anything English or Western. Anything remotely “normal”. So i had already abandoned regular tuned guitar playing and was now completely immersed in creating my own open-tuned guitar tunings and writing only in those…. All of the Acoustic In New York album is in an open-tuning of some kind. Back then I pretty much only used my open D9 or a funky open A I came up with, both of which I still use a lot today. So yeah that whole album is either open D9 or open A. Funny now. But true.
I also had completely abandoned listening to anything western or even in English — other people’s music I mean. My answer to the band’s breakup was to still do music and explore and listen to music, but just not western music. So I started buying a ton of different album collections of what we were calling World Music. I just started soaking it all in. It was all so new for me. Music from France and Italy and Spain, Iran and India and Russia and poland, Nigeria and Senegal and Mali etc etc. Pretty much any and every country. Some spoke to me. Some didn’t. But i dug the process of discovery. A whole new world was opened to me that as a band we had explored very little, because we were so focused on “making it”…. We just didn’t have room for “world music”. We were so busy either making music or keeping up with our peers and perceived competitors, all Western music artists.
One day I’m listening to this World Music collection — and I believe it was one of Putumayo’s (they really deserve all the credit for this World Music explosion that happened in the States in the 90s. They don’t get enough credit for what they accomplished IMHO). And suddenly I hear this song… “Fio Maravilha”. The artist was Jorge Bem Jor. How do you even explain it? That feeling? Well it was very similar to how I felt when I first heard the Beatles. Or Dylan. Or Bowie. Or Kate Bush. I was just totally knocked out. Chills. Electrified. There was something supremely special about this song and this artist. I knew it was deeper than just digging on some new discovery from Italy or France. This was a life-changing moment for me musically and personally. It felt supernatural. I was mesmerized but couldn’t explain WHY. Everyone I played the song for seemed “not that interested”, which I couldn’t understand. Didn’t they hear what I was hearing?
But remember we’re still in pre-internet days here. It existed, but no one’s using it yet. There was no “running a search to look up the song” thing going on yet…. So I had no idea what this song was. I didn’t know what country it came from and i sure as hell couldn’t figure out what language it was. Maybe it was African. I really dug a lot of the African stuff. (More on that in another post perhaps…) But it sounded like the guy was singing in French. So Africa made sense. But i had studied French. It wasn’t French. Some of the words sounded like they were in Spanish. But I spoke Spanish. It was’t Spanish. Italian maybe? I grew up in an Italian household. Definitely not Italian. Damn it. What WAS it?
All I knew was that I must have listened to that song ten to twenty times a day for weeks. Just absolutely fell in love with it. More than all the songs from all the other countries I was listening to (NOTE: there were two exceptions; though they’re off point they’re important to mention: Ali Farka Toure from Mali and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan from Pakistan also became favorites of mine….) One day I meet this girl through the scene. I can’t remember her name. But she had this really round face. I mean like an apple kind of round. Cute. Kind of foreign looking. Nice girl. And she had a peculiar accent. After some talking and hanging I learned that she was from Brasil. And more importantly I learned that Brasil was in South America (not Africa, as some Americans mistakenly believe) and more importantly still I learned that they spoke Portuguese in Brasil. NOT Spanish. Which was HUGE. Because in the States we just always assume that everyone speaks Spanish in “Latin America”… It’s just this assumption that we make. It’s a sincerely crazy notion really, because Brasil is the largest country in South America. (!!!) And they don’t speak Spanish there. But I can’t honestly say I even knew that much at the time.
But whatever. It’s just how we are in the U.S. We lump the whole continent together including Central America, almost as if they’re one big country. Which they’re not. Not even a little bit. It’s a major faux paz.
[I assume this has become a little better since the advent of the internet age… though I’m not sure how many people know where Brasil is or know that they don’t speak Spanish, but rather Portuguese, or are aware of their many cultural accomplishments as a people…]
Eventually I learn from this girl that she KNOWS this song that I am madly in LOVE with, “Fio Maravilha”. Like she KNOWS it knows it. She’s known it all her life. It’s a super famous classic in Brasil. She grew up hearing it on the radio all her life. Mind BLOWN. Wow. Okay. So that’s Portuguese. Portuguese? Man what the fuck is Portuguese? I had no idea what that was…
I really didn’t even ever consider that there were “hit songs” outside of Western music. It just never occurred to me. I guess I just always assumed that the whole world was listening to the same hits and the same artists we were in the States and in the UK. There’s a term for that…. living with blinders on… shallow? living in a bubble? jingoism perhaps? But it’s not important. Suffice it to say I was a kid and just had absolutely no awareness of anything musical much outside of the little world we lived in within the confines of western music… America, England, Ireland, Australia, all of it primarily due to and because of music. (Literature and history of course were a different story. But we’re talking about music here.)
But all that changed when I heard that first Brasilian song. What was even weirder was that this girl also taught me that this song was NOT a beautiful romantic love song to a girl like I assumed it was — it IS a beautiful romantic song, no doubt about it.. And when you hear it, that’s what you just automatically assume it is.. because it’s so poetic and beautiful sounding…. But in reality, “Fio Maravilha” was an homage to a soccer player and a particular goal he scores in one important game. Fio maravilha means “marvelous son” in portuguese. What the fuck? This incredibly gorgeous sonorous song is about soccer??? I must admit i was stupefied at first. I didn’t get it.
I was a young, idealistic, intellectual artist and consciousness explorer who paid NO attention to sports. So this was a very foreign concept to me… to write such a beautiful song about soccer? And then for the song to become a big hit and then a classic. Seriously? What?
Later I would learn the history of Brasil, social, political, cultural etc. and the very important role soccer actually plays in it… It’s a fascinating human story. It is very difficult to fully relay the importance of football in Brasil, and impossible to overstate just how important it is there. Brasil is the all time most winningest country in the world in football/soccer. No one comes close to them. Most World Cups. Most Americas Cups. In the 50s and 60s when the chips were down for them socially and politically they mesmerized the entire world with their championship talent, ability to play and multiple wins in soccer globally. You can watch the footage on YouTube. It’s awe-inspiring how much better they are than everyone else. Like magicians or artists. Pele… Brasilian.
Regardless of the strange subject matter, I quickly became obsessed. There was something so transcendent about this music…. it didn’t matter to me what the song was about. I just wanted to hear more. I started buying anything I could get my hands on that was Brasilian. Compilations mostly. I then heard Caetano Veloso. Jesus this was like hearing McCartney for the first time. (Except in some ways he’s better. In other ways, not. I mean, Sir Paul is Sir Paul…) Everyone knows I have an obsession with Caetano. I consider him one of the few “best of all time”. He’s right up there with John Lennon, Sir Paul, Dylan, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Bowie and The Boss. The song “Caetano” from our Nothing Is Cohesive album is literally me singing the praises of and drooling over how amazing Caetano Veloso is. So yeah… he’s my man.
Then I heard Gilberto Gil. Specifically the song “So Quero Um Xodo”. The melody was light and airy and happy, but sad at the same time. I needed to know what he was talking about. Just had to. I found the translation to English and started reading it. And for whatever reason it just hit me. Hard. Like BAM! By this point two years had passed. My deal with SONY never transpired. The album never came out. I came back to Miami from New York with my tail between my legs, broke, depressed, dejected, and thoroughly disheartened with music as a career. I was 25 years old at the time. i was finished with music. I didn’t write it. Didn’t play it. Didn’t listen to it and wouldn’t let anyone around me listen to it. Almost two years like that. Music made me sad. Really sad. So i just took it out of my life.
Then i heard that song by Gilberto Gil. There was such happiness and freedom in his voice, and yet he was singing about stuff that was so sad… about how hard life is and how lonely he was and how his life would be okay if he could just find someone to love, someone to call honey or dear or sweetheart… I sat there at my desk and started crying. Then balling. Something touched me deeply about the total recklessness and abandonment of the male ego and American strength and ambition that we are raised to put on in the States. There was none of that in Gil’s song. Just a lonely guy, singing happily, almost gleefully, about his grieving and the pains of life and how one day he might find happiness.
Within an hour I got one of my guitars out of the closet where they’d been for almost two years and started to play. And then write. I hadn’t played a guitar or any instrument in all that time. Hadn’t even listened to a song or seen a video. Stayed far away from all of it. But that night I played all night and into the next day. Something had changed. Looking back now, at the whole trip, at everything that’s transpired over the last 20 years, — because I know I’ve been very lucky, things came late for me… but they worked out well, me coming back to it after a two year break… — I guess you could say that it took something very foreign and far removed culturally, musically, lyrically to shake me up and shake me out of my discouragement.
In all the different Brasilian songs I was hearing I kept noticing that there was an inherent poorness in the people, financially speaking… they sang about it… these were not Americans or Europeans… These were not people accustomed to having it all, to being able to buy whatever they want, to buying a house before you’re 30 years old, to having two cars…. And yet they were supernaturally positive, poetic, intellectual, spiritual…. It was uncanny and confusing, but inspiring.
These were people who grew up and lived in “favelas”, which are basically giant projects of tiny little houses made of cardboard and billboard signs and old tires and put together with rope and old used wires and cables…. these were shanty towns. With no running water or electricity, conceptually something that we in the U.S. couldn’t even imagine, and yet their music was so carefree and happy, but also deep, poetic, profound and intellectual. I just couldn’t get it to make sense…
But it felt like i was connecting with something so deeply meaningful to me personally that it could be past life related. I mean, it was that powerful. It tugged at my heart. Sincerely. I felt it in my heart. It was that powerful. And yeah, I’m half English and half Italian. So it should have happened with Italian or English music. But it didn’t. It happened with Brasilian music.
I had to go there. I needed to learn Portuguese so i could get inside of this incredibly beautiful language and really understand firsthand what all the lyrics were about. Why did it sound so good? Why were the lyrics so poetic? I also had to get to know the people and their culture. There was something so different about them. So spiritual. So deep. So not full of shit. So sincere. I also wanted to learn how to play their music. And there was no way I could learn it in the U.S.
So let’s start there. Why IS Brasilian music so great? Something I’ve contemplated a lot lately. At the moment I am attempting to learn how to play the song “Aguas de Marco” by Tom Jobim and Ellis Regina. You know it. Trust me. You’ve heard it a million times. It’s been a hit here in the States too. It’s an old 70s song. It might be the most beautiful song ever written. It’s also one of the most poetic and profound lyrically.
Musically this song is a beast. A monster. On the guitar it’s like a giant roller coaster of a Loch Ness Monster filled with far too many chords, all of them jazz chords that take more than four fingers to form. My first trip to Brasil was in ’98. Stayed there for a few months studying Portuguese at a language school in the mornings and then going to lunch and then studying Brasilian music all afternoon at another school. Crazy, I know. But I was obsessed. I wanted to speak portuguese as fluently as I did English and Spanish and I wanted to be able to play Brasilian music as well as I could play Western music. So i attacked it full on.
But the finer point is that it took me 20 years to even consider ever learning to play this song “Aguas de Marco”, even though I’ve always LOVED it. I just always labeled it “way too difficult”. The last few weeks though, I started listening to it again and casually commented to Princess Little Tree that “I could never learn to play that song. It’s way too complicated….” and she said, “yeah right. You’ll learn it and be playing it by the end of the week like you always do.” In Avatar we call that a White Worm. She shifted me with that comment, delivered as casually as my earlier discouraged remark about it being too difficult to ever play. So I picked up the guitar and started slowly learning it. I’m still in the practicing phase of it…. Slowly getting there. It’s hard. Really hard. But I’m getting there….
And this got me revved up. Because honestly the song really is incredibly difficult. Unless you literally grew up playing jazz your whole life. Which I didn’t. And yeah I have years and years, hell, decades now, of experience playing Brasilian music, but most of the Bossa Nova stuff I have always shied away from because of how challenging it is. But I skipped ahead. Let’s start at what I have lately been calling “reason number one why Brasilian music is so great”:
Reason Number one: When you first hear Brasilian music the first thing you notice is how beautiful it is. How mysterious it sounds. It’s fucking gorgeous to the ear. Sonically everything about it is transcendent. But it’s also completely different sounding than what we’re accustomed to in the West. And there’s a reason for this. They don’t use the same chords that we do. They still use the 12 note do rei mi scale that we do in western music — unlike say India or Mali etc., but the chords they use all come from the earlier Bossa Nova music that came out in the 50s, which was a spin off of american jazz, but their version. You know Bossa Nova. Even if you don’t know you do.
Think of that song “Girl from Ipanema”. That’s probably the worst of the Brasilian songs honestly, but that’s what it took to break Brasilian music into the U.S. Something simple and elementary like that. Truth is, most bossa nova is incredibly complex. In the U.S. Bossa as it’s called is considered jazz. If you major in music in college, you take an entire semester of just Bossa Nova. That’s how big and transformative it was and still is to music.
When you think of Bossa Nova, think of Tom Jobim or Joao Gilberto (who just passed away this week…). Between the two of them they’ve got 20 songs you know but don’t realize are actually Brasilian classics. Bossa Nova was both jazzy and pop at the same time. It wasn’t atonal chaotic free-form improv music like a lot of american jazz. You can easily groove to and sing along with it. But it utilizes jazz chording to create the progressions.
You hear these beautiful melodies and chord progressions and they sound just like normal beautiful songs…. You have no idea that underneath it all are these incredibly complex jazz chord structures. You’re just swept away by the beauty of the music…. So you really don’t think about it.
That’s why i needed to go to Brasil and learn it. I tried learning it here in the States and as soon as i looked at one song and how funky the chords were, I was like “What the hell?” I just wasn’t familiar with chords like that. (If you’re a musician, then you know we occasionally use diminished and augmented chords, but only occasionally… 7s and 9s and sus4s a lot…. But the Brasilians take it to a whole other level. They’ll have chords like Gm7(9)(13)/G# and that’s standard… And they use a LOT of flat 5s. -5 or 5- are everywhere. Which are killer on your fingers. Especially when combined with 4s, 6s, 7s, 9s, 13s and different bass notes (another favorite of theirs). And they’ll have the entire song is made up of chords like that. And there will be like 15 to 30 of them in one song and they bounce around them endlessly sometimes all within one verse… It’s total madness. So it’s like learning a whole new language.)
After Bossa Nova, the next generation of Brasilians created a new kind of music which is called MPB, which stands for musica popular Brasileira. This is where you get guys like Caetano, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascieamento, Jorge Bem, etc. The new generation. The Tropicalia generation. It’s essentially Bossa as it’s foundation, but with influences from American and English pop and rock like Dylan and the Beatles and Hendrix and then also influences of avant garde from America and Europe mixed in like John Cage or John Cale or Terry Reilly. It’s trippy but it’s eerily accessible music.
MPB is more “pop”, it “sounds” more western, sort of, but again it’s totally unique from western music. Still has that passion, poetry and mystery to it that’s unique to Brasilian music. And that’s because they still composed their songs using those bossa nova jazz chords as their foundation, but also threw in some Western styled chords too. When I say western styled chords, i literally mean the chords that you and I use and take for granted as musicians… C, D, Am, GMaj7, B7, Dmin7, etc. Simple stuff comparatively. But THEY started incorporating more of those into their music for the first time. Specifically to attempt to make their music sound more Western and more pop or rock. And it worked. Jorge Bem Jor is really good at making western styled pop/rock. He occasionally writes songs that really are composed of mostly western chords. But he’s one of the only ones.
So yeah that’s the first thing you notice, that stands out. Like with all music… Just the music itself, the melodies and harmonies and progressions…. the unique beauty of their music. And as explained above, there’s a reason for it. They’re not making music the same way we are. Not at all. Totally different musical components underneath.
Reason Number Two: The sound of the voices and the Portuguese language. The next thing that grabs you are the voices… there’s a purity and a sincerity to the voices in Brasilian music that we rarely hear in the West. Think Radiohead. That kind of vulnerability and pathos. Hell that’s why they’re fucking Radiohead. They lay it all out there. So too do the best Brasilian artists. Then there’s the sound of the language itself. You may not understand a word of what’s being said, but you just know it SOUNDS beautiful.
I explain Portuguese like this. Imagine a sentence in your own language, any sentence, a small one of just a few words. Now imagine it visually, being about three to six inches tall, the letters and words of that sentence. Put it up on a table or counter. Can you see it? Now that’s a sentence in your native language standing up there three to six inches tall. You can see it visually. The Brasilians took Portuguese, one of the five Latin languages (related to French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian), the native language of Portugal — which is actually quite similar to Spanish in many ways… But they flattened and softened it through the centuries.
[Brasilian Portuguese is it’s own language. It’s NOT the same as Portuguese. Literally. Again, not something most people know. But when you go to learn Portuguese, you are asked to make a choice between regular portuguese, as in Portugal, or Brasilian Portuguese, which is formally referred to as Portuguese-BR.]
Picture the sentence of words that you put up on the table in your mind. Now imagine someone coming along taking their hands and flattening all those words and letters till they’re like less than an inch tall. That’s what the Brasilians did to Portuguese. They just flattened all the consonants and vowels… Then they took a warm iron and flattened those words and letters even more, and then they took a steamer and softened them all up till your sentence is no more than a few milometers high…. You can’t even see the words and letters anymore. Because they’ve been so flattened. Which creates the softest most poetic and beautiful language you’ve ever heard.
Sure French is pretty. There’s something really sexy and sensual about speaking French… the way it rolls off your tongue and out of your mouth… You have to deliberately act like you have marbles in your mouth to make it sound authentic. Like you just had dental surgery and you can’t open your mouth…. So too is Italian a beautiful language. It’s so sing-songy and lyrical. It feels like your’re breaking into song or reciting poetry when you speak Italian. It’s fucking gleeful. No matter what you’re actually saying. It’s an incredible feeling actually. Speaking Italian. But each their own. In their own way. None better than the other. As with all languages….
And then there’s Brasilian Portuguese. All the consonants have been softened to the point where they all start to sound the same. There is absolutely no stress, tension or struggle in Portuguese. It’s the polar opposite of Russian or German or any of the Scandinavian languages, which let’s face it, are anything but “soft”. Some languages have more of a “hard” sound to them…. Some are softer. Portuguese is incredibly “soft” sounding. Like being massaged in a hot bath with the lights turned down low…. In portuguese, there’s a lot of the jhuh sound. Half the consonants have it. Or just shhh.
All the R’s have been changed to H’s. Both in the beginning, middle and ending of words. It’s a trip. But it makes for a much softer language than most. Instead of trilling or rolling the R’s at the end of sentences as in Spanish, which is a harder sound to the ear, they’ve turned them into haaahhhh or huuuhhhh. It all makes for a very soft, poetic, euphonious and gorgeous sound to the ears.
Another thing is that they speak, and thus sing, most of the language through the front of their face and their nose. It may sound weird, but if you’ve studied classical singing you know that we’re taught to not sing from our throats but rather through the “mask” of the front of the face and to “throw” about a third to a half of our sound through our nose in order to make for the most beautiful singing. Well…. here’s an entire country full of people who just naturally happen to speak and sing through the “mask” of the front of the face and place about a third to a half of the words through their nose in order to pronounce the language properly. A coincidence? Maybe. But it works. If you’ve studied or speak other languages then you know that some actually require you to deliberately use the back of your throat to speak the language authentically. This is a deliberately hard sound, made hard sounding by the use of the throat and various glottal sounds. Arabic and the Semitic languages come to mind. And again German…
Personally I honestly can’t choose between Italian or Portuguese or French. I believe that all three are equally gorgeous. Depending on the need or goal at hand. But Portuguese… Wow…. There’s just nothing like it. If French is the language of love and Italian is the language of great opera, Portuguese is the language of God and the human soul.
Reason Number Three: After you start getting into Brasilian music you might decide to learn what’s actually being said. In your native language. And this is the next thing that really knocks you on your ass when it comes to Brasilian music. Once you actually start reading what they’re saying… And how they’re saying it. The poetic nature of how they form thoughts is truly profound. Entirely different from how we do it in English or Spanish or French or Italian — the closest might be the French. They’re pop is pretty freaking profound at times actually…..
The Brasilians can literally make a song about a soccer player seem like they’re talking about the second coming of the messiah. And in the song “Fio Maravilha” they do. It’s not JUST a song about a soccer player, see…. It’s a song about the redemption of an entire people who’ve been oppressed for hundreds of years through the magnanimous glory of a supremely gifted artist who is almost deified for his glorious talent on the football field and how grateful the people are for his talents and gifts and the glorious way he plays, for he truly is a gift from heaven, an angel. And that’s the song in a nutshell. It gives you chills. It transcends its subject matter.
In the song “Girl from Ipanema” (and I’m just choosing this song because you know it…. there are much better examples….) the English translation was done by this American hack who completely destroyed the poetic nature of the original portuguese lyrics. To the point where Jobim and Joao Gilberto refused to continue the recording process. They were horrified by the English translation. They called it “shallow and vulgar”. Ultimately it wasn’t their call to make. The American music business machine had already taken over and had them sign over all their rights. So they were stuck with a song that they didn’t like.
BUT if you go back and read an actual transliteration of the lyrics of this song, you’ll see that it’s actually a gorgeous work of brilliant poetry by one of the great poets of Brasil, Vinicius De Moraes, who in Brasil is known as just “Vinicius” (because he transcends that much, no last name required… everyone knows who you’re talking about. Same with Jobim, Gilberto, Joao, Caetano, Jorge, Chico…. These guys have risen to this point of “first name only” status.)
But back to “Girl from Ipanema”. In this song, they start the song off by immediately comparing this mysterious girl of beauty and grace they see stroll by on the beach to the Holy Mother right from the start. TOTALLY different than the shallow “long and tall and dark and lovely” lyrics in the English translation. NONE of that is in the actual song. This American dickweed just made it up because he didn’t speak Portuguese. The original song is pure poetry. Mystery. Profundity. About grace and beauty and honor and heaven and the power of all that and yet how far away it all is. It’s a symbolic statement about something much grander than just a girl on a beach.
Check out the song “Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar”. Jobim and Vinicius wrote that together too. I actually recorded that one…. You might know it. But don’t listen to mine. Listen to Caetano’s version. Or Joao Gilberto’s. Or heck even better listen to Jobim sing it. He wrote it. Gorgeous work of poetry and beauty.
Caetano Veloso is a master of this poetic style. He’ll be appearing to be singing about one thing, but in reality you realize he’s singing about something much bigger, but he keeps swooping in and out of the two to three different arenas like a beautiful poetic bird. He’s a master songwriter. A true poet. A true composer. Check out “Desde que o Samba e Samba”, or “O Leaonzinho” or “Sampa”. All three are classics. Incredible songs. Brilliant songs. Beautiful songs. But precisely because they are also brilliant works of musical art and lyrical poetry.
Three days ago I heard the song “Superbacana” by Caetano Veloso for the first time… or at least it was the first time that I “heard” it, really listened to it. It blow me away. It’s off his Tropicalia album, the one that really shook the earth beneath all of Brasil and started the whole Tropicalismo or Tropicalia social and political movement there. (Along with equal contributions from Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes and Tom Ze and Gal Costa and others.
Anyway, I do what I always do. I listen to the song ten to twenty times in a row, analyzing the lyrics and the poetry of the beautifully perfect Portuguese language, still in my opinion the most poetic of them all (and yes, being Italian and speaking Italian and French and Spanish etc. I know what a betrayal that may sound like… but there’s just something transcendent about this language, both in how it sounds to the ear and in how the words and phrases are strung together…. Obviously a subjective thing. I’ll give you that.) I then do a quick translation to English to see if I missed anything. Wow, what a fucking song that is. Simple. Fun. Light-hearted. On the surface. And yet still a Dylanesque social protest song. And the way he spits the lyrics out so fast. Truly genius.
Then I spend three days transcribing the chords, listening to it over and over again. Searching the internet for anyone who has ever transcribed the chords to just get some help with it. But no one has. And this song is 50 years old! I WhatsApp a friend of mine in Brasil to ask him about the song. He tells me “yeah bro, not many people know that song. Not even here in Brasil. It’s only hip with super hip people. It’s not like a popular song, like so many of his….Good luck with that. But I really hope you figure it out, because I can’t wait to hear you sing it with your strong funny Portuguese accent!”
I’m going to include some links below so you can listen to the song on YouTube. Because it’s just that good. Bare in mind, it’s 1967, so it still has elements of that orchestrated pop of the sixties, plus elements of the popular bossa nova style happening in Brasil at the time (think Tom Jobim) and yet it also has this frantic rock ‘n’ roll vibe to it and a sort of folky protest theme to it as well. A very hip tune. The whole Tropicalia album by Caetano is brilliant. A definite must-have.
When you analyze the lyrics, basically Caetano is saying “You all act like you don’t even know I exist, but I believe you’re pretending. Not only do you know I was born, but you also know that I am super fucking cool. (Superbacana literally translates to “super-cool”). And he uses the song to rally against the bourgeois class currently occupying Copacabana and the government with all their big spending on technology and other things that he doesn’t believe help him or the people of the country. But in the end he and his people are still super-cool regardless.
When I first discovered it, it reminded me of the song “ManChildWoman”, the way he’s just overtly bragging, very rock ‘n’ roll swagger… Which I admit I do a lot of from time to time in certain songs… It’s all in fun…. Just to catch a groove and ride it. But after studying the song more, I believe there’s more to Caetano’s “Superbacana” than just empty bragging like “ManChildWoman”. Truly. It’s more Dylan. The bragging is more asserting his existence against an authoritarian regime that refused to acknowledge their existence for so long. It’s a life or death kind of “I believe in me” type of thing. Whereas I was there when I wrote “ManChildWoman” (at least I think I was…as much as I could be considering…) and there was no life or death vibe in my mind. I remember. It was more just “I believe in me mother fucker yeah!” They both have their place. It’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all important. As important as rock ‘n’ roll can be.
I’m still trying to figure it out. Learning the chords. Trying to learn the phrasing of how he spits out those lyrics so fast. It’s a brilliant piece of work.
Anyway, check it out. It’s a hip tune. Truly special.
Before we dive in to the specific platforms and policies that we heard proposed in the first Democratic Debates over the last two nights, let us address a few things that may have been left out or only alluded to in the last piece I wrote about the candidates yesterday [Read that here if you missed it].
I’ve given this some thought over the years…. So from the start I’d like to attempt to share it with you. It’s no secret that I have often been accused of being “wishy washy”, i.e. refusing to take a position on a variety of subjects, not decidedly having an opinion, as most people seem to. On a whole host of matters. This is something I share with a very good friend you’ve heard me reference here in the Diaries many times, Matthew Sabatella (occasionally referred to as Toad in earlier years when these Diaries were more a workshop for the novel The Adventures of Fishy. And with Madeline O’Ryan. We spent our youth teens and twenties often ruminating and philosophizing on a whole host of subjects, finding it very difficult to understand the consciousness of those who could readily just make up their mind on something and give it no more thought. We found, and still do I believe, that important matters often have multiple facets that affect many people.
Despite what you may think you believe, research it a bit more or give it some more thought and you’ll find that it’s deeper and trickier than you first were led to believe. As a Philosophy major and a recording artist this way of being served me well, certainly didn’t hurt me, and in fact led to the whole “Ambassador” ideology that helped shape who I am today. I truly subscribe to the Will Rogers “I never met a person I didn’t like” mentality. Of course this infuriates both my liberal and my conservative friends. But it’s just how I was genetically spun. It’s how I came out. It serves The Ambassador very well. Ed Hale, maybe not so much sometimes. But I just happen to love people, and can usually find it pretty easy to see their side of things… and I just happen to be able to see all sides to almost any issue. They’re all just beliefs after all. Beliefs that we make up in each present moment. Whether we know it or not. (That’s really the secret. But that’s not what this post is about.)
Some people decide to be leaders. They want to be leaders. Some of them choose politics as their way of leading. In the old days, throughout our short history here on earth, these political leaders usually started out as corrupt thieves, conquerors, murderers and warriors. That’s human history in a nutshell. Study it. Royalty is a fancy way of attempting to legitimize being a heartless and corrupt thief and murderer. So too are most major religions. And most of human history’s most famous political leaders. Whether you start at the very very beginning with humanity’s first known “king” Sargon the Great, or the Egyptian Pharoes, through to the Akkadian, Babylonian and Persian kings or Alexander the not so Great, Attilla the Hun, Gengis Khan, Julius Caesar, all the Popes, the Sultans, the Ottomons, the English kings and Queens, etc etc on down the line what you find is a very bloody list of horrible human beings. more “Making Sense of the First Democratic Debates – Proposals and Policies – Part 1”
As is already known, I don’t associate as either democrat nor republican. I’m not much into exclusive clubs, Especially not ones that box you into very specific agendas of their choosing. And especially not ones whose very specific agendas contradict each other and don’t even make sense half the time but still force you to pretend you agree with them in order to be a member. It’s just not my scene. Even though, yes, it tends to be the scene I run with most of the time due to what I do for a living. But with that said, in general I lean a lot more Democrat socially and in spirit than I do republican. Just as I lean a lot more republican fiscally, financially and economically. This makes me a confusing and frustrating anomaly for most who know me personally. I refuse to not call out the corruption and contradictions I often see in the democratic party, the unfair duopoly both parties hold over the American government. And I also tend to be accused of being a “republican apologist” due to my belief in “state sovereignty”, states rights, and the freedom of the individual to create the community of their choosing without federal government intrusion. It’s a respect thing for me. This frustrates the hell out of most of the people I know, who God love them, just want me to choose a side and be done with it. (Some people call this Libertarian. I call it Ed Hale.)
The truth is that two years ago I found the republican debates horrifying on a personal level. It was as if someone had collected and marched out the absolutely most ignorant, ill-informed, close-minded and heartless people in America onto those stages in order to illustrate what the underbelly of America still looked and sounded like. The result was terrifying if you were an intelligent, compassionate liberal free thinker. Watching those debates was traumatizing. The fact that the unwashed republican masses went gaga over the most ignorant, loudest, ill-informed and rudest of them all was even more so.
(But to be fair, I had been warning for years that under the Obama administration America had become too liberal and too politically correct too quickly and was losing touch with a large majority of its citizenry who were no longer feeling the least bit represented by their government and the result was going to be a severe revolutionary backlash against this establishment. And that’s exactly what we got. In the form of Donald J. Trump. People in blue states and on the coast tend to forget that the majority of America is still largely composed of traditional conservative Christian people who view the Reagan years as much more preferable than those of Obama. Like it or not. (We had our chance to let them loose and be left with our own much smaller more intelligent and compassionate country 150 years ago, but (some could argue that) for economic reasons Lincoln wouldn’t allow it. So for better or worse we’re all stuck with each other. A living breathing highly split and polarized organism that shares very little in common and has very little that unites us. In reality, we are two very different groups of people. We’re more like two different countries who just happen to share the same continent; more like the European Union.)
Flash forward two years and the last two nights on the other hand, and the effect was entirely different. From the get go the first thing that you were taken with was how intelligent and compassionate those democratic candidates were and are. Wow. What a difference. Two years ago the democratic party was so completely sold out to the Clintons and their DC power machine that they didn’t even consider allowing anyone else to run for president, let alone debate. In reality, Bernie was their revolutionary hero, the one who could beat or at least challenge Trump. But they were too caught up in all the money and power they had collected from the Clintons — and all the promises made to collect that money — to even notice it. So they blew it. Big time.
This time is different. The democratic party, like the republicans two years ago, have shed their old skin and just want to win. So they’ve opened the flood gates and are allowing anyone and everyone into the tent to get their two cents in, regardless of how ridiculous it may seem. In Yang, we’ve got your classic Herman Cain character. More there for show and inclusionary reasons. Marianne Williamson, someone I know personally and happen to adore, was an interesting set piece for sure, but can probably step down whenever she wants to without causing too many notice. Biden, God love him, is their Jeb Bush. White, traditional and as “aw shucks folks” American as they come. And to be fair, he may be the democrats best chance of pulling in all those purple state voters who Hilary lost two years ago. But the point is, that tent is OPEN for business to anyone who wants to enter and tend their wares.
A lot of you have messaged me in the last 48 hours to ask me what I thought and who I liked from the debates we witnessed. I’ll do my best to answer that question concisely and as thoroughly as I can in the brief few minutes I have this morning.
At least half of the candidates presented in the last two nights can politely step down now. Or be removed. There’s just no need for them. The democrats don’t need to put on the show that the republicans did two years ago. Remember, the republican establishment did not want Donald Trump to be their nominee. Not even a little bit. They fought hard against him. The problem was that the republican party members, the American people who call themselves republican, did. So the party itself continued to march out every last person they could find and throw them up on those stages in hopes they could find someone the republican voters might find more appealing. But it was obvious from the start who the voters preferred. They were sick and tired of eight years of progressiveness under Obama and they wanted nothing less than revolution. Ironically the revolution they were looking for was a return to the old fashioned Americana of Ronald Reagan. And in that loud mouthed, rule breaking, non-traditional traditionalist Donald Trump they saw their man, party politics be damned. The democrats could have learned that lesson along the way… It was obvious to the rest of us from a mile away.
The last two nights were different though. What a difference two years makes. The path of destruction that Donald Trump has left in his wake in his short time in office has effectively almost completely demolished the America of old. Many are traumatized beyond repair, many more are in a constant state of fear or madness, frustration, anger, sadness, depression, shock, awed, stupefied. It is difficult to recognize the beloved republic. Not just to us, but to the rest of the world as well. People from all over the world keep thinking “surely they’ll do something…, yes?” But we don’t. We endure. Because, again, many of us forget that there is still a large majority of American people who like their president and what he stands for. The jingoistic isolationism, the no-holds-barred post-fact world of ignorant tweets. The constant barrage of blatant lies disguised as rugged truth telling. The John Wayne-like gunslinger braggadocio that reminds them of the Old West of yore.
Luckily this has set a fire beneath the feet of the democratic party. And just in time. If we as a republic can survive the next two years, and that’s a big if the way we’re headed, we stand a chance of reclaiming this once great country back and at least some of the values we and the rest of the free world once held dear.
In the first debate, the only two candidates I saw who should even bother staying in the race were Elizabeth Warren and Corey Booker. Warren of course doesn’t stand a chance against Donald Trump in the General Election. He’s too wild janky and free. He will frazzle, unravel and destroy her. It won’t be pretty. And truth be told she’s just too anti-capitalist to appeal to enough people to win the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans. People forget that America was founded on free market, do it yourself capitalism. On the idea that ANYONE can start a Microsoft or a Google or a Facebook or an Apple in their garage or college dorm room and become a billionaire. We like this idea in America. We thrive on it. It inspires us. Our laws protect and encourage it. The rest of the world envies it. We may not have the protections offered by socialism or communism, but there’s reason for that. The absence of big government in our personal business every minute is what enables us to dream up and create the next Netflix or Slack or WeWork. God bless American capitalism. Elizabeth Warren, for all her good intentions — and there is no doubt that she is full of honest and sincere good intentions, needs to learn this or she will never make it to the end of this race.
Corey Booker I have always had a soft spot for. He’s honest, sincere, well informed and smart. I could easily see him as POTUS one day. Always have. I just don’t know if this is his time yet. Not after what I saw last night. But I sure do love Booker and look forward to calling him president one day.
Last night I saw the revolution, the democratic party’s Donald Trump. And his name is Bernie Sanders. Maybe it’s his New York bred confidence and loudness. Maybe it’s the fact that he is unabashedly unafraid and unaffected by politics as usual. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s on fire with a mission that a hell of a lot of other people agree with, saying out loud what a lot of us have been thinking for decades. Who knows. But he should have been the candidate two years ago. Forget that his admitted socialist agenda stands firmly against half of what we stand for as a country…. Sanders is out to remake America. The same way Donald Trump was. If it worked for Trump, it could work for Sanders. If Trump is that cranked up half-cocked crazy cowboy who rides into town shooting first and asking questions later just for the hell of it, Sanders is that jacked-up courageous Sheriff who stands firm with his hand on his gun shouting “Don’t you DARE fella!”
And don’t worry. No president can remake America on their own. It takes a congress and a senate and a supreme court to do that, and they’ll help balance the bulldog out a bit so we don’t go full on EU overnight.
I also saw another shining light on that stage. And her name was Kamala Harris. Wow. I didn’t know much about this candidate before last night, I admit. But what I saw I really liked. There is just something about her that stands out. Call it that X factor that cannot be described with words, despite innumerable attempts. She reminds one of Barack Obama. Maybe she comes out ahead of Sanders by the end of this race. But I doubt it. The best chance the democrats have of retaking America from Trump and all his craziness — unless he ousts himself through just being himself (which there’s a damn good chance of, let’s face it…), would be a Sanders/Harris ticket. That would be something that even I could get behind. I’d be willing to jump on that whacked out revolutionary socialist bandwagon for the exact same reason so many mild mannered republicans were willing to jump on that sketched-out tweaky Trump bandwagon. Politics as usual has made me sick. And I’d do just about anything to be rid of it once and for all. I truly believe Bernie wants the same thing.
More later. We need to review the actual policies proposed over the last two nights. Because there’re a lot of problems there. And we’ll do that in the next installment here. Stay tuned.
Video capturing the band Ed Hale & the Transcendence performing a rousing live version of the song “Caetano” from their Nothing Is Cohesive album at New York’s Cutting Room for a Fieldhouse/BMG Showcase. Featuring Fernando Perdomo, Ed Hale, Bill Sommer, Roger Houdaille and Ricardo Mazzi. Filmed by Robert Seoane.
The original title of this post was “Christianity Is Making Progress Towards Enlightenment… But Needs to Do it Faster”. But after the final read-thru edit, that didn’t quite seem to sumup its core message. It’s important to note however that the reason for the original title is because despite the ideas expressed below, especially regarding the apparent backwards direction many christian churches around the world are moving in, along with seemingly every other major world religion, there are plenty of others, just not in the majority, that are making great strides toward becoming more progressively minded institutions that embody the highest ideals of enlightenment, or what we might call an enlightened humanism for the modern world we live in.Refuges for both the spiritually hungry and compassionate AND the liberally minded intellectual. It’snot all bad news out there. There just happens to be a lot less of them than there are the more rigidly close minded so called fundamentalist types.
If one is not specifically a Christian, or better put, an actively participating Christian, then it would be easy to not notice what has been happening in the various denominations of the larger world of Christendom over the last few years. That’s a given. And one would have a valid excuse for not being up to date on the latest and greatest hits of the Christian world. After all, a healthy majority of people – especially in the united states and in The West in general have moved to a more non-religious secularism in the modern world we live in, due in part to the fact that for thousands of years we as humans have witnessed religion in all its various shapes and forms do almost nothing but cause great pain in the world. So this mass shift towards what is known as secular humanism or the now popular “spiritual but not religious” makes sense.
But there are massive shifts that are taking place in the Christian world (and in the Muslim and Buddhist communities) presently that are important to take note of due to the transcendent nature of the very real threat they pose of infringing on the basic rights and freedoms of our fellow man. Regardless of whether one is religious or not. Some of these radical movements further right unfortunately align with similar shifts within other world religions and the more fervent nationalist fervor that is taking place politically around the world. Various Christian protestant denominations are beginning to swing further toward what they consider a more “conservative” fundamentalist or evangelical agenda. And these moves have the potential to have larger reverberations socially that extend beyond the confines of their local church community.
It shouldn’t matter where a person is being hurt or neglected; only that when it becomes known, that there are those who are willing to reach out and come to their aid.
Three states in the US have already made moves this year that come very close to banning abortion, Georgia, Alabama and then Missouri. Which would be shocking to learn, except for the fact that we are now being bombarded by such an onslaught of so much shocking news on a daily and even hourly basis that much of it seems to go over our heads.
I’m the first to admit that finding good content, let alone great content, on @netflix isn’t easy. It can lead to some seriously long boring scroll time. In their defense, Netflix has brought us some good content through the years, including but certainly not limited to Peaky Blinders, House of Cards, Daredevil (the first two seasons were “okay”….), Travelers, Maniac, Love, Santa Clarita Diet, Dead to Me, El Ministerio Del Tiempo, Arrested Development (okay so yeah that show has seriously jumped the shark at this point….), the first season of Ozark and the first season of Narcos, Bloodline, and many others…. They also feature a pretty decent movie and docs collection to stream for free as well that alone makes the service well worth the low monthly fee.
BUT more importantly their 24/7 open format, binge-ready batch delivery system and open mindedness to creativity has led to a true content (and delivery) revolution. (No i don’t get why the old networks haven’t caught on yet….) Friends From College showed that Netflix could step up and produce real content, quality network content if it really wanted to. Not just silly kids stuff. Ironically the show is a bit controversial on IMDB in that people either love it or loathe it. Like everything today for some reason. Why people profess to “loathe” the show in their reviews, I honestly have no idea. But it’s lighthearted and over the top take on the challenges and realities of friendship and growing up is often laugh out loud hilarious and moving. Especially if you see your own life mirrored back to you in the show’s intelligent and often witty writing and story lines. more “Friends From College Showed That Not All Netflix Content Has to Be Horrible”
Just finished watching one of those Hallmark Channel-type Christmas movies, called Paper Angels, and I must sheepishly confess that I am all warm and fuzzy smiles here pondering various aspects of what we’ve come to call the Christmas Spirit.
Perhaps we take a pause and consider making Christmas less about Santa, elves and reindeer, and more about matters of the heart that seem to be universally agreed upon ideals, regardless of age, race, nationality or religion… Some ideas that come to mind…
* No matter what the excuse, nobody deserves to be a victim of domestic abuse. And no matter how challenging or scary it may be, you’ve gotta get yourself out of there. You’re worth it.
* Life doesn’t always work out the way we planned. That was never guaranteed. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
* We can live truly joyful, fulfilling lives whether rich, poor or somewhere in between. Though we certainly obsess over it more than just about anything else, it’s not about the money.
* Giving, helping & serving others is a magical phenomenon in how great it makes us feel.
* That idea that we must “give in secret”… forget you ever heard it. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating how much joy you feel because you made someone’s day or year even. And that joy… is contagious.
* No matter how busy we are, time always finds a way to magically allow more of itself for noble acts like helping another.
* Sometimes helping someone can be as simple as a smile, a prayer or a few kind words.
* Other times serving others may require a major investment of time, attention & energy. Either way it’s a gift we should never deprive ourselves of.
* That little voice in the back of your head, listen to it. That feeling in your heart that you just can’t shake… Our Intuition. Honor it.
* Family & friendship just might be the most valuable gifts we’re blessed with. And for whatever reason, we’re blessed with many.
* We haven’t quite figured out the mechanics of it, but there is a power in prayer that is undeniable. And despite their claims, no religion has a monopoly on it. It’s an activity that is freely available to anyone anywhere anytime, religious or not.
* When we’re in flow and feeling good from doing the right thing, we tend to often end up at the right place at the right time, for ourselves AND others.
* Not everyone is as nice or kind as you are. No one ever said they would be. But those are things that no one can ever take away from you. You’ll just have to be extra nice & kind for those who are still struggling to get there.
* We all “need” sometimes. That’s life. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when we need it. (No one ever died from not having enough pride.)
* A lot more people love and care about you than you probably realize. And you deserve every bit of it.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU